Pity Party

I know – such an original title today, but it is apropos for today’s vent.

Today’s catalyst for the latest episode in “Life with Michael” was an invitation to a family birthday party for our niece/the boys’ 2-year-old cousin.  The house was beautifully decorated, amazing food was laid out, a bouncy castle stood in the backyard, and smiling faces greeted us when we arrived.  For a brief moment it seemed that we were going to have a lovely afternoon – the weather was gorgeous, the wide backyard was set up perfectly for a kids’ party.  A few guests began to arrive………….and then things began to change.  Michael used to have a problem with little girls everywhere we went.  He’d see a cute little girl his age (or younger) and run over to touch her; not inappropriately – just a pat on the arm and then run off.  This isn’t exactly behavior you want your child doing around strangers, however, and today’s party was 90% little girl-guests. This hasn’t been a behavior Michael has exhibited in a very long time…….up until today.  He was simply unable to control himself.  No amount of redirection – whether it was putting him in the bouncy castle, giving him chips, showing him videos on the iPhone, or going for a walk – could make him stop.

That’s when I saw my husband become unglued.

No yelling or screaming – he didn’t make any sort of a scene.

But I knew he had had it.

Between the two of us, he is usually the more levelheaded parent ; I’m the one on the anti-anxiety meds and the one who loses my cool in stressful Michael-related situations.  After about 2 minutes of this behavior, my husband took Michael by the hand, started to say his goodbyes and proceeded to leave the party, stating that he’d come pick me and Christopher up later.  I was shocked.  That’s not the sort of thing I’ve seen him do before.  I tried to dissuade him, but his mind was made up.  To make a long story short, we talked, and I ended up leaving with Michael.  I had one plate of food, said my goodbyes and off we went.  (Since this was Mike’s family, I felt that it would be better for him to stay and for me to remove Michael.)

I’m tired.  I’m tired of feeling like an outsider in situations like this.  I’m tired of never being able to sit down and relax and not worry about what trouble Michael is getting in.  I’m tired of locking doors with a key from the inside and hiding that key so Michael won’t run away.  I’m tired of not being able to open our windows when the weather is nice for fear of the same reason.  I’m tired of watching Michael run around our house doing NOTHING but making messes and eat snacks he snuck out of the pantry.  I’m tired of people saying “Doesn’t Michael have any interests or things he likes to do?”” (No, he doesn’t – not video games, not television, not cars or trains – NOTHING.)  I’m tired of having to leave events because Michael can’t control himself.  I’m tired of having to spend money to replace things that Michael has broken.  I’m tired of my house NEVER being clean.  I’m tired of crying about it.  I’m tired of waiting for the therapy companies to call us back.  I’m tired of my insurance company who is giving us the runaround to pay for said therapies.  I’m tired of watching Christopher spend hours alone playing video games because he has no siblings he can play anything else with.

See, I told you it was a pity party.  The ironic thing is, pity is the last thing I want.  Pity doesn’t help.  I just want to know what it feels like to have a family where everything is normal.  Not that normal is the same for every family.  I don’t expect perfection.  Every family has stress – I’m fully aware of that.  But this is so different……and not in a good way.

The other thing that is so hard to swallow is that Michael was having such a good couple of weeks lately.  He was affectionate and calm; the aggression had started to decrease.  I was watching a news story last night about a young adult with autism who cannot speak at all, and is not self-sufficient in the least; I was feeling good because it seemed that our problems paled in comparison to this family.   But everything is relative.  Today was tough.  And to tell you the truth, Michael’s behavior today wasn’t even that bad.  But we were among a lot of strangers and everything tends to be exacerbated when there are people around who just don’t get it.  Not that anyone was giving us stares or rude remarks; but still……….

Michael has his special soccer program today; the place where I will be surrounded by a hundred plus people who DO get it.  I am so happy to have places where I can go like that.  I wish that everyone’s community offered those same programs.  It breaks my heart to hear about people who have nowhere to turn.

Oh, and just to add insult to injury, when I arrived home from the party today, I was greeted by a giant pile of dog doo waiting for me in the hallway all over my nice wood floor. Caroline got into the pantry yesterday and ate about 2 dozen Christmas cookies; apparently, they made their exit today.

Is 3 PM too early for a glass of wine?

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The Lone Foodie

I was inspired to write this post tonight when I had to sit and feed Christopher – that’s right, the one who does NOT have autism – in order to get him to eat his dinner.  I haven’t had to do that since he was about 10 months old.  I got so sick and tired of hearing (cue the whiny voice) “I’m not hungry”. “I don’t really like this meal”, “If I give up dessert tonight, can I be excused?”.  I finally sat him down, loaded up 5 giant spoonfuls of the hearty soup-in-a-bread-bowl I made tonight, and fed him like he was in a highchair.

Why am I the ONLY person in my house who ENJOYS her food?  I will try anything and everything.  There is only one food in the whole world that I won’t touch – that would be hot dogs (frankly, knowing what’s in those, I don’t think I’m missing much).  I have a husband who refuses to eat vegetables of any kind, one son whose menu consists of cheese, hot dogs, chicken nugget breading, chips, and Cheez-Its, and another whose menu seems to be decreasing by the minute.  Christopher used to be my com padre in the food battles in my house.  He’d actually REQUEST that I buy broccoli at the grocery store.  He’d watch me make salads and ask for pieces of green pepper, cucumber, and tomato.  He’d dip pita chips in hummus with me and ask where the fruit tray was at his friends’ kiddie birthday parties.  I’d brag to everyone that my son was just like me when it came to food – healthy and adventurous.  My little junior foodie, who once even told me that he was going to be a chef when he grew up…………….and now wrinkles his nose up at my cooking.

I love food.  It’s ironic that I’m married to someone who would live on steak, baked potatoes, and corn-on-the-cob every day if his arteries would let him.  Over the last few years, I have subscribed to four different cooking magazines, collected a dozen or so cookbooks, set up recipe boxes on a handful of websites, and downloaded the Food Network App to my iPhone.  I have sat in front of the TV writing down ingredients from Rachael Ray’s show, and stood in line for 2 hours to meet Giada de Laurentiis.  My sister posted a little quiz on Facebook called 100 Foods to Try Before You Die and I was so disappointed to see that I had only eaten about 35 foods on the list.  Not that I’m too interested in trying octopus or ox-tail soup, but I guess I envisioned myself as having a pretty interesting palette.

I read a book last summer called “The Kitchen Daughter” about a young woman with Asperger’s Syndrome who immerses herself in cooking.  I found myself absolutely intrigued with the descriptions of the smells, tastes, and textures of the foods.  The author really captured the sense of comfort that good food can bring.

Hopefully, one day, my little junior foodie will make his way back into the kitchen.

Meanwhile, don’t you think the title of this post would make a great show on the Food Network????